Durham County

Durham County manager plans tax increase, but not $5M more for schools losing students

Durham County Manager Wendell Davis
Durham County Manager Wendell Davis Durham County

Durham County property taxes are going up, but schools don't get all the money they want under the county manager's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

The $644.5 million spending plan raises the tax rate 1.9 cents to 78.69 cents per $100,000 of assessed property value. That's a 2.4 percent increase.

The proposed tax rate means if you own a $300,000 house, for example, you would pay $2,360.70 in county property tax next year, or $57 more than you did this year.

And that's in addition to separate taxes paid if your property lies within the city limits or special districts such as those served by rural fire departments.

County Manager Wendell Davis presented his budget Monday night. It includes:

A specialized mental health unit and staff support for female inmates in the Durham County Detention Center, including 13 new detention officers to support jail staff. A mental health unit for men was funded this year.

School Resource Officers for Durham Public Schools. The school board requested the funding for five SROs previously paid for by the city. That brings the total number of SROs in middle and high schools to 27. The manager's budget also calls for body cameras for all SROs.

Durham Public Schools

The county spends about 34 percent of its general fund, the largest part of the total budget, on education.

Durham Public Schools requested a nearly $5 million increase, but Davis is offering just $3 million more. The school board wants the money for its share of teacher salaries and benefits, support for "in house" custodians, more teacher extracurricular pay support and other expansion requests.

Davis says his proposed increase supports state salary increases, automatic contracted services increases and "can support other DPS initiatives as chosen by the Durham Public Schools Board of Education."

He also noted that his plan sets “per pupil” funding at $3,400, an increase of $88.

"It should be noted that while enrollment in Durham County charter schools continue to grow, the number of students in Durham Public Schools has decreased the last two years," Davis said.

The DPS Board of Education approved Superintendent Pascal Mubenga's proposed budget last week that requests $137.1 million from Durham County, including the $5 million increase.

"I always get nervous when we do a conservative budget, and this is a conservative budget and we're doing it in uncertain time," said school board member Natalie Beyer.

The county manager's proposed budget also includes $3.7 million to continue the expansion of pre-K support, bringing the total amount spent on the program to $5.2 million. The increase includes $1.5 million to fund a second year of eight pre-K classrooms at the renovated Whitted School.

Davis said Monday that a few years ago, the county "heard loud and clear from the School Board that students show up on day one lacking early childhood education," so the pre-K expansion is their response.

What's next

The Durham County commissioners will review and possibly modify the budget in the next few weeks, with their first work session May 22 with the school board.

Read the full proposed county budget for 2018-19 by visiting www.dconc.gov and search for "budget."

They'll hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 11, and will vote on the budget Monday, June 25.

The total Durham County budget increase is $11.3 million, or 1.8 percent over the fiscal year 2017‐18 approved budget.

The 2017-18 county budget totaled $633.1 million, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan
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